“Magisterial.”—The New York Times
“[A] fine new biography . . . [Eisenhower’s] White House years need a more thorough exploration than many previous biographers have given them. Smith, whose long, distinguished career includes superb one-volume biographies of Grant and Franklin Roosevelt, provides just that.”—The Washington Post
“Highly readable . . . [Smith] shows us that [Eisenhower’s] ascent to the highest levels of the military establishment had much more to do with his easy mastery of politics than with any great strategic or tactical achievements.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Always engrossing . . . Smith portrays a genuinely admirable Eisenhower: smart, congenial, unpretentious, and no ideologue. Despite competing biographies from Ambrose, Perret, and D’Este, this is the best.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“No one has written so heroic a biography [on Eisenhower] as this year’s Eisenhower in War and Peace [by] Jean Edward Smith.”—The National Interest
“Dwight Eisenhower, who was more cunning than he allowed his adversaries to know, understood the advantage of being underestimated. Jean Edward Smith demonstrates precisely how successful this stratagem was. Smith, America’s greatest living biographer, shows why, now more than ever, Americans should like Ike.”—George F. Will
Eisenhower's greatest accomplishment may well have been to make his presidency look bland and boring: in this sense, he was very different from the flamboyant Roosevelt, and that's why historians at first underestimated him. Jean Edward Smith is among the many who no longer do. The greatest virtue of his biography is to show how well Eisenhower's military training prepared him for this task: like Grant, he made what he did seem easy. It never was, though, and Smith stresses the toll it took on Eisenhower's health, on his marriage and ultimately in the loneliness he could never escape.
The New York Times Book Review
Except for FDR, Eisenhower was the 20th century’s “most successful president,” says Smith. After delivering this jolt, Smith, senior history scholar at Columbia (and winner of a Francis Parkman Prize for FDR) makes a reasonable case in this long but always engrossing biography. Eisenhower (1890–1969) spent 16 years as a major in the hidebound pre-WWII army, but the people who mattered (FDR, generals MacArthur and Marshall) recognized his talent. Smith describes a man who commanded the largest coalition army in history without grandiloquent posturing, feuds with superiors, or favoritism to certain egotistical subordinates who responded by disparaging his leadership. As president (1953–1960), Smith credits Eisenhower with leading Republicans away from their isolationist past, keeping the peace, and leaving office more popular than any successor. Ironically, no Republican candidate today would dare praise the legacy of this “progressive conservative” who slashed the military budget, opposed tax cuts, resisted evil (in this case communism) without going to war, and supported Social Security and federal aid programs. Warts turn up, but Smith portrays a genuinely admirable Eisenhower: smart, congenial, unpretentious, and no ideologue. Despite competing biographies from Ambrose, Perret, and D’Este, this is the best. Photos, maps. (Feb.)
Smith (senior scholar, history, Columbia Univ; FDR) has produced another fine biography. He follows Eisenhower from his youth in Kansas through his education at West Point and his meteoric rise through the ranks to Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. Hundreds of historical tidbits (some that have nothing to do with Eisenhower) are sprinkled throughout the narrative, providing interesting information on almost every page. Smith continues with chapters on Ike's time as president of Columbia University, NATO czar, and presidential candidate and commander in chief. He reminds us that Eisenhower was as widely popular when he left the White House as when he became President eight years earlier, a nearly inconceivable feat in this day and age. This is a birth-to-death biography, including well-known details of Eisenhower's personal life, though relatively little space is devoted to the post-presidential years. VERDICT Smith gives a riveting account of one of the 20th century's most important leaders. The book will have wide appeal for general readers and particularly for those interested in military, political, or presidential history. [See Prepub Alert, 8/22/11.]—Robert Bruce Slater, Stroudsburg, PA
One of the most favored subjects of eminent historians receives yet another lofty tribute as the prescient general and "most successful" president of the 20th century after Franklin Roosevelt. Having written biographies of FDR, John Marshall and Lucius Clay, Smith (History/Columbia Univ.; FDR, 2007, etc.) is amply qualified to reshape the life of the late, great president, whom the author calls an "enigma." The making of the leader seems to interest Smith most, and he breezily tracks Eisenhower's (1890–1969) early years as the third of seven sons born to a brooding, difficult father who finally found work at a creamery in Abilene, Kan., and a vivacious, energetic mother whose confidence in her sons' abilities propelled them to prosper in the world. Smith dutifully points out a few weaknesses in the general's legend, such as that he lied about his age when applying to West Point, and participated with alacrity in General MacArthur's shameful clearing of the Bonus Army encampment in Washington, July 1932. Popular, capable, ambitious and a hard worker if not a brilliant mind, Ike was furious that World War I had passed him by, relegated to the peacetime Army--although he leapfrogged the ranks while ingratiating himself wit the major generals of the day. Although he had never led an active command, he was swept into General Marshall's War Plans Division of the Army after Pearl Harbor. Smith examines Eisenhower's leadership in the European theater, concluding that he was a master at consensus and delegating, offering the appearance of casual confidence; however, as a field commander his understanding was "abstract and academic." As president, he capably handled the Suez crisis and sending troops into Little Rock, kept the country out of war and would not abandon his vice president Richard Nixon. He ended his presidency with the still-ringing warning about "the military-industrial complex." A straight-shooting, comforting account--though not super-enlightening, considering the mountain of previous Ike bios.